Brooks PureProject’s distinct minimalistic shoe design, particularly the rounded heel and split toe that I lauded in my Wired review are back with some dirt-specific tweaks.
Brooks PureGrit Trail Running shoes, $100, Brooksrunning.com
The Good: Light weight, just enough cushioning, excellent traction.
The Bad: Mesh upper plus rain equals wet socks.
The Ugly: It was tough to find something to write for The Bad.
Part of Brooks Running’s minimalistic PureProject line of running shoes, Brooks’ PureGrit trail runner takes the company’s unique approach to the natural running craze off the pavement and into the wild. The PureGrit adds an aggressive yet low-slung outsole for better traction without sacrificing groundfeel, while its bolstered upper is designed to better handle rocks and brush than the road version.
On test runs, the rounded heel and 4mm drop encouraged more of a midfoot strike and facilitated a quick turnover, while the shoe’s soft interior felt great. I still wouldn’t recommend running sockless, but I loved the sock-like fit. Just like the PureConnect, the upper just wraps around your foot in a nearly seamless hug. Feels like a sock with an outsole. The Brooks DNA midsole felt springy and responsive as well; the adaptive cushioning was firm and responsive as I bounded up and down Whiskeytown’s singletrack trails, but was soft enough to keep my feet from feeling beat-up after long, slow 10+ mile slogs. At 8.9 ounces for men’s size 9, the shoe feels more durable for long miles and tough trails, but its features give it the responsive feel of a lighter weight shoe.
One of the most notable differences between the PureConnect and the PureGrit is tread pattern. Instead of the individual foot pods on the roadie, the PureGrit’s outsole consists of a pattern of wavelike lugs designed to provide grip while maintaining a low profile. The outsole performed like a champ, keeping hold in wet conditions, on steep uphill sections, and during the occasional creek crossing. Sharp rocks and roots weren’t an issue, either, as the never allowed enough penetration to bruise my tender feet.
They aren’t waterproof, and the mesh upper will definitely let rain through if it’s pouring outside. But after creek crossings, they drained well and dried quickly without feeling waterlogged.
After several months and hundreds of miles, the PureGrit has elbowed its way to the top of the pile in my shoe closet. It’s tough to find a weakness in this shoe - it strikes the perfect balance between a minimalistic shoe and a protective trail runner. It’s funny that the standout features of the shoe - split-toe sole, elastic nav-band in the instep, etc - actually serve to help the shoe blend in. They make the PureGrit do what every shoe is supposed to do: they let the wearer forget that they’re wearing shoes at all.